Tag Archives: Collaboration

Taking on-line Shopping to a new level of Interaction and Personalisation

Have you seen what the telecommunications company 3 is doing with user interaction? Their 3LiveShop offering is a great example of product innovation to deliver an innovative service. Through the new user-experience portal, they are taking the real and the virtual and blending them into an integrated experience.

I feel strongly that today’s on-line purchasing experience will morph in the next few years into this sort of blended approach. The reality is that all of us like face-to-face interaction. While it is true that Telepresence and similar systems give the potential of high-definiteion interaction, applying this interaction in a meaningful experience such as choosing a mobile phone, shopping, or having a product demonstrated makes it very very real. And useful. And time saving. And customer centric.

Watch the video:

3 from B-Reel & B-Reel Films on Vimeo.

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The Rise of Generation C: Implications for Innovation Acceleration

Excellent report by Booze&co. on what they call Generation C: People born after 1990, digital natives, highly connected, living online, using social networking as second nature, being able to consume vast amounts of information, and living in what Booze calls a “personal cloud”. The premise is that by 2020 an entire generation will have grown up in a primarily digital word, with technology as we know it today just part of their life, rather than an add-on. Booze says the C in Generation C stands for Connect, Communicate and Change.

You can read the full article here.

What are the implications for innovation acceleration if this is the case? If you endorse the premise – as I strongly do – that innovation is powered by collaboration and connectedness – that innovation acceleration happens just by the fact that people are connected in an ecosystem, then we are in for a meteoric rise is the innovation capability of Generation C. Do you agree?

And if this is the case, what structures, if any, do we need to put in place to capture and harness this creativity? Can the corporation as we know it cultivate and environment where all of this innovation potential is harnessed and exploited?

The answer is – not today. Next year? or 2020?

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Collaboration – We are not even close!

Everyone wants to be more connected and more collaborative. So – do we collaborate? Really collaborate? The power of the Internet allows friends to connect over Facebook, business colleagues to remain in touch over LinkedIn, and email, voice and video provides for richer connectedness. That’s true. Indeed, organisations like Cisco have developed sophisticated voice and video communication tools to allow people to connect in more meaningful and lifelike ways, wherever they are.

But my hypothesis is that we are still very far from understanding how to deeply and meaningfully collaborate. Very, very far. We say we are collaborative when we sit on a bunch of conference calls, or try and use an enterprise blog or Wiki (until we give up and go back to email) but that’s not collaborating.That’s just connecting.

True collaboration should involve:

  • Shared data stores with defined and agreed IP management rules. I should be able to safely and securely access information from any of my colleagues in select groups (within and outside of my organisation) with ease. Firewalls and passwords are transparent to me. Boundaries are there, but invisible. Today, this is almost impossible.
  • An etiquette for collaboration. When I post something in a colleague’s data ecosystem, there is an etiquette for collaboration that will give me confidence in when to expect a reply and in what form. Today, no such etiquette exists.
  • Almost immediate construction, and decomposition, of collaborative teams. If we decide to form a collaborative group today, with the press of a button I should be able to construct the teams, the data stores, the IM channels, and the IP protocols. Today this is an incremental process that usually breaks down half way through, and people revert to email.
  • Collaborative histories that can be easily and intuitively browsed. Who said what to whom, where, and when?
  • Collaborative document management and construction. We should be able to build plans, documents and presentations truly collaboratively. Ever tried to build a PowerPoint deck as a group of 10? Almost impossible to do this in a truly collaborative manner.

And that’s just the start of the list!

Email is an archaic, point-to-point, hub and spoke outdates communication tool. It inhibits collaboration. The problem is, we really don’t have anything much better.

Mind you, tools are not the place to start. We need to define truly collaborative business models that we agree to. Once defined, the tool set will be easy.

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Innovation, powered by Collaboration, is essential for future success!

There is an excellent report of how collaboration in the workforce powers innovation. I have been unable to track down the orginal article for positing here, but I am going to replay the blog where it is cited, because I find it so interesting and relevant. It comes from HR Magazine http://www.hrmagazine.co.uk.

By 2020 the workplace will be transformed by the sharing and development of ideas, according to a study of 3,500 employees, 100 HR managers and 100 IT managers across the UK, France, Germany, the US and Japan, conducted by the Future Foundation on behalf of Google.

“It will be an ideas and innovation economy rather than knowledge economy,” says Future Foundation account director Judith kleine Holthaus, revealing the study finds an 81% positive correlation between collaboration and innovation across all markets. In the UK employees who are given the opportunity to collaborate at work are nearly twice as likely to have contributed new ideas to their companies.

As collaboration and innovation accelerate, thanks to new enabling technologies, elements of the HR and IT functions will integrate and HR and IT roles will shift as they adjust to the ideas economy. HR will need to ensure employees are motivated to collaborate and innovate, with the study finding that 34% of HR personnel agree they will need to learn new skills to foster a sense of corporate community and a third of chief information officers believing they will take on more responsibility for innovation in the future. Some 44% of HR managers say HR will need to have a better understanding of technology in the future.

“The HR director and IT director will have to come together,” believes Carsten Sørensen, senior lecturer in information systems and innovation at the London School of Economics and Political Science.

“They will have to manage issues such as how to balance IT infrastructure, which produces better functionality and productivity, with collaborative technologies and individualisation. It is inconceivable that the future will not be more forcibly brought about by insight, knowledge and information. Nothing can stop the process of collaboration but mess and contradiction will define the resulting relationships. Organisations are not good at paradoxes.”

In the world of HR this will translate through to the culture of the business, how to incentivise and reward ideas and innovation, where and how work is performed and policies and practices around social networking.

However, the research shows that businesses need to move more quickly to create an environment that encourages innovation. While nearly half of those surveyed believe new technologies will encourage innovation in the next five years and 42% think they will change current business models, one in five employees say there is no process in place for them to contribute ideas to their employer and that their employer does not encourage them to come up with new ideas. Only one in 10 think management will be the source of ideas in the business, with nearly a third thinking other employees will bring innovation.

“The need to innovate quickly is becoming more important to business,” says Robert Whiteside, Google head of enterprise UK, Ireland and Benelux. “But while people are used to collaborating through technology in their personal life, it is more challenging to enable them to do so in business.”

If businesses don’t change, though, they will face the consequences. “Any company that does not optimise innovation will be less likely to exist in five years,” kleine Holthaus warns.

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Pixar Embraces Collaboration to Power Innovation

Who amongst us does not love the work of Pixar? Very few I am sure. Pixar has succeeded as well as anyone in mastering the art of creativity. The company has produced one animated hit after another—including “Finding Nemo”, “Cars” and “The Incredibles”. Rather than being crushed by Disney, as many feared, Pixar has reinvigorated its parent company.

What is most interesting is how Pixar has embraced collaboration within the organisation, with a view, strongly supported by myself, that collaboration powers innovation. In his article in The Economist (June 17th, 2010), Schumpeter says the company devotes a lot of effort to getting people to work together. In most companies, people collaborate on specific projects, but pay little attention to what’s going on elsewhere in the business. Pixar, however, tries to foster a sense of collective responsibility among its 1,200 staff. Employees show unfinished work to one another in daily meetings, so get used to giving and receiving constructive criticism. And a small “brain trust” of top executives reviews films in the works.

Schumpeter continues that Pixar got the inspiration for this system from a surprising place—Toyota and its method of “lean production”. For decades Toyota has solicited constant feedback from workers on its production lines to prevent flaws. Pixar wants to do the same with producing cartoon characters. This system of constant feedback is designed to bring problems to the surface before they mutate into crises, and to provide creative teams with a source of inspiration. Directors are not obliged to act on the feedback they receive from others, but when they do the results can be impressive. Peer review certainly lifted “Up”, a magical Pixar movie that became the studio’s highest-grossing picture at the box office after “Finding Nemo”. It helped produce the quirky storyline of an old man and a boy who fly to South America in a house supported by a bunch of balloons.

Breaking down the barriers is key to successful innovation in any organisation. Pixar certainly sets an excellent example for others to follow.

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Does Collaboration Really Add Value?

Collaboration. Everyone now collaborates. Really. Or so the PowerPoint slides tell us. Did you not know that every organisation is now a collaborative organisation? Show me a CEO who does not have a slide in their deck talking about collaboration.

But what is the true value of collaboration?

Frost & Sullivan, supported by Verizon and Cisco, have published a paper Meetings Around the World II: Charting the Course of Advanced Collaboration. Frost & Sullivan surveyed almost 3,700 professionals in 10 countries on four continents, to determine a model for measuring a Return on Collaboration and the impact of IP-enabled advanced collaboration on business performance.

The study found that there is a continuum of performance and return at the intersection of communications technology and business processes. Performance increases as organizations employ progressively more advanced IP-enabled UC&C tools. Not only do these organizations perform better, but they also have a higher return on their collaboration investment.

The adoption of collaboration tools tools can help organizations achieve performance gains and returns because they can enhance the value that an increasing number of individuals, collaborating across a network, bring to business-critical processes. In those that involve many-to-many interactions, such as innovation and new product development, sales, and customer acquisition, the return on collaboration is highest, as the greatest numbers of people are working toward a common goal (e.g., creating a new product). In processes involving few- to- many interactions, such as corporate reputation and shareholder value maintenance, advanced collaboration tools tend to have a more muted impact, due to a correspondingly lower number of connected individuals involved in these areas. At a basic, functional level, line-of-business managers believe that advanced collaboration tools help them to do critical tasks faster, more effectively, and at a lower cost than when these tools are not used.

Of most interest is the finding that an organization’s Culture and Structure for collaboration is a strong determinant of collaboration quality, leading to high performance. The presence and use of collaboration technology is still important, but it clearly needs to be deployed in an organization that is open, with a decentralized decision making structure. All of this means that today collaboration-enabled performance is heavily based on the organizational structure and environment in which advanced collaboration tools are deployed.

It’s not just about the technology – if the structures for collaboration are not in place, no amount of technology will make the organisation able to be truly collaborative.

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Can we mix Rivalry and Innovation? McKinsey says we can.

In a world full of talk about collaboration, why would we consider rivalry? Interesting thought. McKinsey have just released a document around innovation and rivalry that is worth reading.

The notion is that we can learn from the past – in this instance, the use of rivalry. Indeed, McKinsey argues that rivalry does not preclude collaboration, but we should try and integrate rivalry and collaboration. Three principles are discussed:

  1. Forming Teams: competing teams are set up from different divisions, including a diverse array of experts, taking different approaches ot the same problem.
  2. Appreciating differences: The various solutions should be held up next to one another, with the opportunity for ideas from one to be integrated into the other.
  3. Conducting “market tests”: this involves bringing the solutions to an internal jury or group of customers to let them weigh and contrast the different solutions.

The article continues with a case study on GE, and how competition and collaboration has been used successfully to stimulate innovation in GE without disrupting a culture of collaboration.

In an era where collaboration is the catch cry, it is interesting to read and contemplate a hybrid model, especially one that has been pout in practice successfully.

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Breaking down the Silos – Open Innovation

There have recently been two excellent, short articles in BusinessWeek about how we need to “break down the barriers” internally and externally within, and between, organisations. The first is from Saul Kaplan, and he gives some excellent examples from both the private and public sector. Read here.. The second article is entitled “Smashing Silos” by Evan Rosen. Read it here.

It all comes back to the paradigm that connectedness and sharing, in itself, will accelerate innovation. I have been a proponent of this for a long time, but it takes articles such as these to reinforce the concept. Why is it that is it necessary for something to be repeated 100 times before it sinks in?

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The “How” of Open Innovation

I want to alert you to an recent excellent report on the “how” of Open Innovation. The report is a product of two years work within the Cambridge Open Innovation Network. This network is funded by Unilever and the Cambridge Integrated Knowledge Centre. The report aims to answer the question “I want to implement Open Innovation – where should I start and what should I do?”. It provides and overview of existing approaches to Open Innovation and outlines how a company can start to implement a strategy to match the organisation’s needs.

Unilever has been a long-standing proponent of Open Innovation. Not only does this report talk about the theory of Open Innovation, but it draws on Unilever’s experience, and contains the results of 36 interviews and workshops.

An excellent document. Download it now.

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3M and a Culture of Collaboration

I have talked for some time in this blog about how collaboration powers innovation, and how most of us do not truly collaborate.

One of the key issues in collaboration internally within an organisation is having a culture of collaboration. The challenge with establishing such a culture is to align incentives as part of that culture – more often than not, this does not happen, and while evryone runs around talking about colaboration and innovation, their KPIs and remuneration is securely centred on the “ME”.

BusinessWeek has run a story on how 3M successful harnessed their culture of collaboration to their benefit. While the example in this article is not very compelling (it is of a worker using a corporate skills” directory to find an expert) the lessons learned are reasonable, and I quote them in full here.

Support networks. Build Web-based social networks that help employees with a problem find those with an answer. Support grassroots networking initiatives such as 3M’s TechForum—an employee-run group that organizes speaker events to stimulate thinking and also serves as a kind of mixer, where scientists from different labs or divisions can connect in person.

Build collaboration into your employee evaluation system. Reward employees not just for developing an innovative technology, idea, or process, but for spreading it. No company reaps the benefits of collaboration if their employees or managers are hoarding innovation in order to look good at the next quarterly meeting.

Encourage curiosity. 3M allows employees to spend 15% of their time on projects of their choosing, giving them permission to develop ideas or technologies that may be outside of their regular work focus. Such policies increase the odds of collaboration, as the path of curiosity often leads employees beyond their knowledge base, to a place where they need the advice and insight of others.

Create innovation funds. Group or department managers focused on core-related projects often don’t want to spend money exploring or developing innovative ideas. To overcome this common roadblock, companies should create an alternative source—3M calls these Genesis Grants—that employees can go to for funding of innovation projects that don’t fit neatly into existing departments.

Don’t underestimate the value of physical proximity. When 3M’s Post-it Note team wanted to accelerate product development, it had the team’s marketing, financial, and other nonmembers move into the same building with the tech folks. If different functions have to be housed in different buildings, pay for a shuttle service that makes it easy for employees in different departments to visit each other.

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Platforms for Collaboration Powering Innovation

Many of you know that I am a strong advocate of the notion that increased collaboration powers innovation. There is an excellent article by Professor Satish Nambisan from Stanford on exactly this topic. He proceeds to outline some of the governance models that are required for effective collaboration. Most of us ignore these sorts of models and just plug our day-to-day activities into the framework we call “collaboration” – with very mixed success.

Here is his abstract. Enjoy reading the entire article.

Some of the brightest ideas for social change grow in the spaces between organizations and sectors. Yet few organizations have systems that make collaboration happen. To foster innovation, organizations need to develop places where they can come together and work creatively—that is, platforms for collaboration. In this article, a management expert identifies three kinds of collaboration platforms— exploration, experimentation, and execution—and then outlines what organizations can do to put these platforms to work for them.

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The Value of Online Collaboration – Where do we miss the boat!

Today Frost & Sullivan reports that online collaboration is proving to be an effective way for businesses to save time and money on travel, while maintaining high level of productivity. The arising trend indicates that companies who discovered the advantages of online collaboration are unlikely to return to old ways of conducting business when the economic conditions improve. In addition, collaborating on the web improves the ‘green’ image of companies, as more firms are looking into ways to reduce the usage of limited resources, and are striving to become environmentally conscious.

The question in my mind is: is everyone “really” collaborating? By what measure? To what effect?

At a recent course I ran on Connected Innovation, i took a “hands up” poll. There were twenty people in the room. I asked only two questions. The first was “How many of you work for organizations where the mantra is “collaborate” and the CEO talks about how collaborative the organization is?”. Almost twenty people put up their hand.

I then asked: “And how many of you feel that you really are collaborating with your peers, sharing, and effectively solving problems together?”. Only TWO put up their hands!

We jump very quickly from “Let’s collaborate” to the technology of “collaboration”. But we ignore the governance models that are essential for true collaboration. Without these models, the use of technology is probably 50% effective, at best.

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Global collaboration can make us Healthier

Rising expectation in the emerging economies of Asia is poised to prompt a surge in demand and a wave of innovation in healthcare. “This is a huge opportunity for forward-thinking companies,” Helmut Schuhsler, Managing Partner of TVM Capital, told delegates at the recent Science|Business conference, The Innovation Economy. Read more…

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Upcoming Open Innovation Conference at United Nations

The upcoming i2i conference at the United Nations on June 8 and 9 will focus on Open Innovation, collaboration and incentivized competition. Great line up of speakers. Keynote address by Ban Ki-moon. Here is the program.

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Excellent example of Innovation and Crowdsourcing

This is truly an excellent example of the intersection of Open Innovation, globalization and technology. I saw it in a SpringWise, a publication reporting on new business ideas. This is a new project that aims to bring income opportunities to those in the developing world using the ubiquitous mobile phone.

Targeting the more than 2 billion literate mobile phone subscribers in the developing world, txteagle aims to help alleviate high unemployment levels in many rural areas of countries like Kenya with a crowdsourcing approach that offers new ways to earn extra money. The service connects corporations with small tasks to be completed—currently, the most common ones include software localization and translation into local dialects for companies like Nokia—and native people who can complete them in minutes by cell phone. Tasks are sent to multiple phone users by text message—”translate the phrase, ‘address book’ into Giriama,” for example—and answers are accepted as accurate when the majority of users provide the same response. Compensation is determined by the number of times an individual’s response agrees with the consensus; penalties are imposed for wrong answers, while “don’t know” responses make no contribution. Over time the system learns a particular user’s expertise, and can actively select the most appropriate tasks for them. It can also weight answers from long-term and historically accurate users higher than others, making it necessary to involve fewer other individuals when those users respond. Payment is made either to a bank account connected with an individual’s phone number—accessible at any post office or local kiosk—or via airtime credit transfers.

Case Study

Ruth & Betty, Home-Maker / Village Phone Operator, Butare, Rwanda. Ruth is the mother of four and while she reads and writes English fluently, she hasn’t been able to find much work in her local village. She’d like to own a phone, but hasn’t been able to save up the money. Betty operates a village phone in Ruth’s village. By ‘renting’ the phone to Ruth for 50 cents/hour during off-peak times when Betty has no other customers, Ruth is able to complete 3 hours of transcription tasks – accumulating $7.50 into her savings account and $1.50 into Betty’s account. A couple of more sessions like that and Ruth will be able to afford her own phone!

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The Perception that Collaboration enables Innovation

Recent research undertaken by Computer Weekly in the US as part of a project with BT found that over 67% of respondents expect collaboration to become an important driver of innovation over the next 12 months. This is significant. 83% have sufficient budget to facilitate collaboration within the organisation, and 80% say the collaborative technologies being used have not been impacted by any budgetary changes affecting the wider IT infrastructure. This is also significant in light of the GFC.

In terms of the benefits collaboration brings to the organisation, 93% of respondents said better communication, 83% more effective staff, and 73% improved productivity. Faster innovation was cited by 70%, and lower costs by a similar number. In terms of how collaborative tools and techniques positively benefit innovation, 23% said saving time, 20% said collaboration enables the sharing of ideas, 17% said saving money or reducing costs, and 17% said sharing information over a wider area.

The challenge for these organizations is to build frameworks that allow collaboration to actively facilitate innovation. Most organizations continue to struggle with how to facilitate effective collaboration – just throwing in a bunch of tools usually does not work. It’s the building of frameworks such as Connected Innovation that provides the way forward.

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